Not here, Aunt Passie. He died a decade ago.
And where is your father?
This is his funeral, Aunt.
My father's. Herve Alphand isn't here.
Herve Alphand died years ago, Clarissa!
Yes, I know. This is my father's funeral.
Is Herve Alphand here?
And then I overheard an ugly Walloon say "Tu savais que Clarisse etait communiste - moi pas!"
People drink far too much at funerals. Booze stands indicted as a bad thing, and I stand charged with aiding and abetting. Is it a victimless crime? Well, no. I was completely pissed on Tanqueray and tonic by 4.00 pm, and a wretched sight to behold. The trouble is I drink as if there is not only no tomorrow, but hardly anything left of today. Also, I am one of the truly great smokers of my generation. Sitting weeping on a faux velvet banquette, I was joined by an ennobled culture pundit, ertswhile neighbour of my father and a hard man to like. You will know him from the television. He often starts sentences with "And yet we must ask ...". This time he started his sentence with "You are a fucking disgrace".
It is very difficult not to hit someone when they roundly abuse you like that. But he said "you are a fucking disgrace because you traduce your poor father's memory. And you are hurting yourself". Physically, he is a big man. Some years ago, actually many years ago, I worked with him on a production of Oedipus Tyrannus, you know, by Sophocles, that one. It was a small budget gig, strictly limited season and in the provinces. He said "do you remember the beds and tables you made for Oedipus?" and I did. And I was terribly excited to be reminded because I had forgotten how clever I was.
"Do you remember the beds and tables?" Yes, I do because I still have one. A table. My children used it for dolls' tea parties when they were little. And I made it from a sheet of three-quarter inch birch plywood, four carriage bolts, 12 flat washers, 8 lock washers and hex nuts, 8 butt hinges, four rubber leg tips, some wood filler and polyurethane varnish. I used a sabre saw and a power sander, and I borrowed a drill press from the man next door. I sanded it down, and filled in all irregularities and covered it with a clear varnish. And that is the story of my life.